Communities are naturally multi-disciplinary projects. They use diverse tools to provide the information customers need in the way they want to receive it, all to fill a business need like improving retention or increasing awareness about your products.
At any given time, professionals working in the online community space might be writing documents, talking to customers, editing videos, or sending emails.
The list goes on, which is why customer communities function best with diverse teams that bring together experts from different departments. Each person has different skills and knowledge to contribute, giving you more resources with which to better serve your customers.
Putting together this kind of team isn’t easy. Who do you need?
Exactly who’s involved will depend on your business and its goals, but to help you start planning your ideal team, we put together a list of five people who always have something to contribute.
Customers are the heart of your community, but your community manager is the brain. They steer the community in different directions based on the results that your business wants. They also foster relationships between community members and your business by:
Your community manager will likely become one of the most well-known representatives of your company. They have a direct impact on whether customers feel valued and what they think of your brand, so put the time and effort into finding the right person for the job, then compensate them accordingly.
Expert Tip: Community experts don’t always live under their most recognizable title. Your company’s community manager may be an “engagement specialist” or “customer success manager” instead. These job titles describe the same tasks that community managers deal with, they just focus on the results instead of the job itself.
The best online communities are trusted sources of information that create a sense of connection among people and organizations. You can’t create that type of environment if top management, including your c-suite, isn’t involved.
Getting your leadership team to participate gives your community value and legitimatizes it as a verified source of company information. And your c-suite executives are often seen as synonymous with your brand. Make your brand more personable by introducing your c-suite and making them accessible to customers, especially advocates and members of your product advisory board. You’ll not only make it easier for customers to connect with your brand, but also make customers feel special.
For example, a note signed by your CEO will be seen as more important than one from an entry-level employee. Many customers will also feel more valued because the CEO took the time to keep them in the loop, which improves their overall experience.
In addition to providing signatures for emails and other communication, executives can:
Communities need to be seeded with content before they launch, then updated with new material regularly after they go live. Get a content expert who understands your brand voice, SEO, and customer needs to help with this. Look for someone who’s flexible and experienced enough to create a variety of written, visual, and video content for community members to interact with.
If possible, choose a content creator who understands marketing strategies as well. Marketing skills can help further your customer community’s acquisition, retention, and advocacy goals. They can draft campaigns leading customers and prospects toward actions that benefit your organization, then create the content needed to make those campaigns successful. This may include producing content that encourages prospects to connect with brand advocates or videos that explain the value of add-on products for current customers.
Expert Tip: Use marketing campaigns to give your community more business value. For instance, campaigns to increase current customer sales may generate data that demonstrates how your community helps increase revenue.
When it comes to design, your online community needs to be:
Attractive – There should be an ideal text : picture : white space ratio that makes it easy for customers to consume content and perform activities.
Easy to Navigate – Make it easy for customers to find the content or people they need quickly, without digging through multiple dropdown menus with confusing labels.
Intuitive – Community activities should be easy to perform with little to no instruction. For example, commenting on a blog should be self-explanatory, not require a manual.
Designers and developers are experts in creating websites, so include one on your community management team to ensure your home page, menus, and content libraries are well-designed from the start. After the initial design, developers can get involved with the community periodically to update it as customer expectations evolve over time.
People expect their technology and the websites they visit to work. No glitches, no error pages, no extensive loading times; just an engaging, functioning community that entertains and informs. You need to make that happen, so get a tech expert to take care of any glitches that pop up in your online community and its public-facing website.
IT professionals can also answer technical questions in your customer discussion forums. This is especially helpful for companies selling software or technical services. Customers may have questions on coding, firewalls, or cybersecurity that your IT pro can answer more completely than your community manager.
Not all these team members will be working in your community full time. They may be weekly and monthly contributors, or work on your community only when needed. Your CEO, for instance, probably has a full plate and likely won’t contribute daily. It’s just important that they make consistent appearances.
You may also find that your community management team needs additional members, such as a product development coordinator to translate your customers’ feedback into product innovation. Update your team as your community grows into its role as a customer resource. Adapt who’s involved and how often they contribute until you’ve created a talented group of people who can meet your customers’ needs.